Radio interview with Tom Elliot – 3AW – Tuesday 12 May 2020


TUESDAY, 12 MAY 2020

SUBJECTS: National Housing Stimulus Plan

TOM ELLIOT: Today the Federal Labor Leader Anthony Albanese has called for a thing called the National Housing Stimulus Plan and he says the idea of this is to build and repair social housing and affordable properties and to protect almost a million workers who are relying on the construction industry.  Now that confuses me, I don’t know if that plan is to build houses or whether it’s to create jobs, maybe both. But our next guest is the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Jason Clare MP. Good afternoon.
JASON CLARE: G’day Tom how are you going?
ELLIOT: Good thank you. So, what exactly is the National Housing Stimulus Plan?
CLARE: The answer is both. It’s about jobs, it’s about keeping tradies working – there’s a real risk that tradies are going to be out of work in the next few months, tradies that build homes – and to build more homes for people who really need it. If you look at look at the skyline of Melbourne you can see people still at construction sites. Go around to new housing estates you can see tradies on the tools. But not a lot of people are signing contracts to build new homes at the moment, they’ve either lost their job or lost hours or lost confidence. What that means according to the Master Builders Association is that in the next couple of months, you’re not going to see a lot of concrete slabs being poured around the country. Instead of about 160,000 homes that they thought would be built this year, it’ll be about 100,000. If that happens a lot of the tradies who build our homes will be on the dole queue. What Albo said is, look let’s develop a program here that’s going to keep the tradies working and build homes for those who need it.
ELLIOT: Alright so I mean that’s a good idea in theory. I think that we should be driven more by the number of people that need homes, not by the number of tradies who might need a job. But putting that to one side, who would fund all this? I mean I don’t know, homelessness in Victoria I’m guessing is around 40,000 people. Nationally it’s probably a couple hundred thousand or something but, you know if you’re going to go out and build a couple hundred thousand homes, who’s going to go pay for all of that?
CLARE: Well look there’s an enormous need. There’s an enormous need but we’ve done this sort of thing before in a crisis, the global financial crisis. Money was allocated by federal governments and state governments to build social housing and to repair the housing that we’ve already got. It could be done by bringing forward some of the work that’s already in state budgets and local government budgets, to make sure that we keep people working through this crisis over the next 12 to 18 months.
ELLIOT: So, you’re saying you’d like the states to pay for it?
CLARE: Well I think the National Cabinet which has done a fantastic job needs to look at this. They need to look at the fact that towards the end of this year when unemployment is going to still be at 8 percent or 9 percent, we don’t have this JobKeeper program anymore, you’re going to have a lot of tradies out of work. We should be putting together a national plan to keep them working and build more homes. Remember Tom we did this after World War Two. You know Curtin talked about winning the war and winning the peace. A big part of reconstruction after the war was building homes. We can help the economy, help to keep people working, and build more homes. We’re not gonna build as many as we need. You talk about the size of this; it’s enormous but in a crisis like this, you can kill two birds with one stone.
ELLIOT: Well sure, okay. So, let’s say a combination of federal and state government funding sets out to build I don’t know let’s pick a number, 200,000 homes around Australia. Is the idea that government would own the houses and people would rent them the way public housing currently works?
CLARE: Well it could be done it a number of different ways. That’s the way that public housing works. Community housing provides a similar service for people on low incomes, where the community housing company, the non-government organisation, they own the houses. It could be like what we’ve seen at Moonee Ponds where a superannuation fund owns the property and rents out the property and it’s run with the assistance of the community housing organisations. There’s a number of different ways.
Let me give you another example, which is a Sydney one where the local council in Strathfield area said, we need to build more homes for people who work at the local hospital in Concord. So, they gave approval for a private developer to build more homes but they said look, six of the 27 properties there need to be houses for the cleaners and the nurses and anybody that wants to get a place closer to work. So, it can be it can be government funded, but it could also be private sector lead as well.
ELLIOT: Alright well that interesting. I mean, I remember after World War One, David Lloyd George, who was the British Prime Minister at the time said we need to build homes fit for heroes, instead when that program failed, we ended with heroes who needed homes. Look, I know it’s only nascent idea but I hope it gets traction. Jason Clare, MP Shadow Minister of Housing and homelessness.